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Gaming History You Should Know – The History of UNDERGRADS May 17, 2020

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It’s Sunday! Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming-related documentaries across the web. Today, I’m going to take you back to 2001, and talk about one of MTV’s most overlooked animated show, Undergrads.

Undergrads was an animated television series created by Pete Williams that focused around four college friends, Gimpy, Rocco, Nitz and Cal. The plan was for each season of the show to revolve around a year of college, so the first season focused on their Freshman year. I know what you’re thinking, what does this show have to do with gaming? A lot actually. We never actually see the characters go to class, the show revolves around what they do outside of work and studies. That involves a LOT of gaming, and several episodes focused on the characters playing different games ranging from the board game RISK to the PC game Quake III Arena. As far as I can remember, this was the first non-gaming focused television show that casually acknowledged that computer games existed, got gaming language correct, and wasn’t afraid to namedrop real games.

Sadly, Undergrads only lasted one season, and had a story that ended on a cliffhanger. Due to contract issues between MTV and Pete Williams, Pete was unable to continue the show on his own. However, nearly two decades after the show’s cancellation a light eventually appeared at the end of the tunnel.

Pete Williams intends to make an Undergrads movie and held a successful Kickstarter to start pre-production! But what makes this show so special, and if you’re unfamiliar with the show, why should you care as much as I do? Enter YouTube Channel RebelTaxi, which creates some incredible documentaries on animated shows and video games. Recently, he produced an incredible documentary about the history of Undergrads, up to this point. Give it a watch!

I’m really happy this movie will finally get released. The first season of Undergrads WAS my Freshman year of college. I do not say that lightly, pretty much every beat in the show happened to me at some point over the course of that year. I must credit Pete Williams for his sincerity for that, and with his decision to use correct gaming lingo.

So, after being silent for so long, what is the current status of Undergrads? I’ve got really good news for you. The creator of the show held a successful Kickstarter about a year ago, and pre-production of a film sequel has started. Here’s some test footage that has recently been posted.

Welcome back Nitz, Gimpy, Rocco and Cal. We missed you.

Gaming History You Should Know – Star Trek: The Experience May 10, 2020

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It’s Sunday and welcome to this week’s look at Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming-related documentaries. Come with me as we take a trip to Las Vegas circa 1997.

When I was a kid, I loved watching Star Trek. (ED NOTEYou don’t say?) The films Star Trek Generations and First Contact were on a regular rotation in my VCR and I would watch syndicated episodes of The Next Generation, The Original Series, Deep Space 9 and even Voyager on television while downloading patches and mods on my PC’s abysmally slow modem. In fact, I would argue I probably got a better education watching some specific episodes of Trek than I ever learned in school at the time.

People don’t give Star Trek enough credit these days. The show was revolutionary for its time and one could argue it was probably the biggest transmedia property of its day with interconnected movies, television shows, books and video games. Oh and did I mention that starting in the late 90s, you could actually have a first hand EXPERIENCE in the Star Trek world? You just had to spend some time at the Las Vegas Hilton.

In the late 90s, my parents took me on a vacation to Las Vegas, NV for the first time. Star Trek: The Experience would be something we were going to check out. Without spoiling any details, I believe I had the best time ever, and it cemented my fandom up until Enterprise wrecked it.

Star Trek The Experience would not last forever. A few short years after receiving a major Borg upgrade, the attraction closed in 2008. To this day, nothing like it has ever reopened anywhere in the world.

One month ago, the YouTube Channel Theme Park Backlot premiered this incredible look at the experience. He talks about its early history, what you could do in it, and why it is no longer there. Take it away!

I know what you’re thinking, what does this defunct Star Trek ride/show have to do with gaming? Well, the group who made this ride pioneered a lot of new show effects that only now places like Disneyland (with Rise of the Resistance) have been able to replicate. Seriously that transporter effect alone was worth the price of admission to STTE. You weren’t merely on a recreation of the Enterprise’s Bridge, the show’s story made it clear you were onboard THE Enterprise. In fact most of the original cast remarked (upon touring it themselves) the set built at the Hilton was identical to the set they spent eight years on down to the Easter Eggs.

With modern theme parks now building on The Experience’s foundation, they’ve started incorporating gaming-related features on top of their shows. Now, thanks to the power of real-time graphics, you can experience rides like Smuggler’s Run and actually fly the real Millennium Falcon through the Star Wars galaxy! There’s even in-park penalties guests could risk if they do poorly on the ride. If STTE hadn’t shuttered, who knows what new technology it could’ve incorporated?

Special thanks to Theme Park Backlot for letting us feature them in today’s article. Go and check out their YouTube Channel for more great videos!

Gaming History You Should Know – Nick Arcade May 3, 2020

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It’s Sunday and that means it’s time for a new look at Gaming History You Should Know! Any child of the 90s who had access to the cable service remembers the channel Nickelodeon. In the early 90s, that station was in the beginning of its reneissance period with the launch of animated shows like Doug, Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy, sitcoms like Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude, and Welcome Freshmen, and game shows like Double Dare, Guts and the show we are going to be featuring today. Needless to say, when I was growing up, my television was glued on the station.

By the year 1992, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was on top of the Console market and Nickelodeon was interested in capturing some of the gaming magic. However, this was Nick, they weren’t satisfied with doing the minimum. Instead of producing a show about upcoming games, they produced a high-tech gaming competition that put the winners inside the virtual world decades before that kind of thing became available to the general public. The show was called Nick Arcade.

I know we’ve featured Nick Arcade in this segment one time before, but that was part of a larger segment that looked at a bunch of gaming-related children’s programming. Today, we’re going to focus only on that show, and we are going to do it from a new perspective. Wrestling with Gaming, developed this incredible documentary about the show.

A bit of a follow up from last week’s article. Did you know that there have apparently been a bunch of video game related theme park rides? This was news to me. Maybe in the future we’ll highlight others. Until then, stay safe out there.

Gaming History You Should Know – There Was a Final Fantasy Roller Coaster April 26, 2020

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I love video games and I love theme parks. When I was a kid in the 90s, Universal Studios Florida was the coolest place ever. I could ride a cable car while King Kong was attacking, get in a boat while Jaws terrorized the water, or ride a Deloroan Time Machine in Back to the Future. In the decades since then, Universal’s theme parks have opened all over the world, and one of their parks currently resides in Osaka, Japan. I know what you’re thinking, this video is going to be about the upcoming opening of Super Mario World, a new land where tourists can enter their favorite Nintendo video games, but if you’ve looked at the title you’ll know that is not what we are going to be talking about today. Today, I’m going to bring you back to 2018 for an event I’m shocked did not receive more attention here in the states.

It’s Sunday! Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content from across the Internet that focuses on the history of gaming. So sit back and relax as I tell you the story of what I think could be one of the coolest (but short-lived) experiences designed to make people feel like they are actually inside a video game.

Every year Universal Studios Japan hosts an event they call Universal Cool Japan where they highlight some of their favorite national properties that are…cool. In 2018, Universal Cool Japan would feature Detective Conan, Sailor Moon Monster Hunter…and Final Fantasy.

In 2018, for just a few months, Universal Cool Japan brought a Final Fantasy themed roller coaster, the Final Fantasy XR, to life. Final Fantasy XR was an indoor roller-coaster augmented with Virtual Reality (VR) footage. To make the coaster, Universal Studios Japan took their already existing Space Fantasy coaster and gave it a full Final Fantasy facelift. To give you an idea of just what went into this, YouTube Channel Edamame took some great footage of their experience with the ride. Take a look!

I think the Edamame video does a great job setting the stage for the ride with really high quality video (and subtitles) but if you’re looking for something more detailed I recomend this video produced by Yukendoit.

Sadly, no on ride footage was included in that video but some high-quality snippets of it has found its way online. As far as I can tell, the VR/AR footage used for the ride and the preshow videos were developed by Square Enix. Here’s some of the best on-ride footage I could find online mixed with a virtual model of the track.

If you’d like a bettet look at the ride’s preshow please check out this video. Sadly, it isn’t subtitled in English but this was the best quality video of it I could find.

There was also an incredible amount of exclusive Final Fantasy XR merch and food. Take a look at all this with envy!

Since Cool Japan 2018 wrapped, Final Fantasy XR has remained closed. As for what happened with the Final Fantasy XR content, its only legacy seems to be the footage that people took of the Cool Japan 2018 event. Final Fantasy would not return for Cool Japan 2019 or 2020, so the 2018 event might be the only time it will ever be shown.

Ironically, this was not the first, nor will it be the last time that a video game property would receive a real-world theme park ride, and perhaps we will talk about other times in future installments. Until next time, stay safe Kupo!

Gaming History You Should Know – History of Mirror’s Edge April 19, 2020

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Sunday is here, and if the world is ever going to resume some kind of sense of normality, it’s time we resumed our look at Gaming History You Should Know.

In 2008, EA did something they were rarely known for, they took chances on new IP. They released two major games that year, Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge. While I enjoyed Dead Space almost immediately after it launched, it would be a year before I sat down and played Mirror’s Edge for the first time. I don’t know what it was, the art style, the music, or the gameplay of that first game just gripped me and held on tight. I also loved playing the game on the iPhone and iPad. On the other hand, the more recent game, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, never really sparked my attention and I have yet to play it.

YouTube Channel GVMERS, who we’ve highlighted in the past for their fantastic gaming history documentaries, made a documentary about this cult classic franchise.

Maybe now I should give Catalyst a look?

Gaming History You Should Know: The History of Final Fantasy VII March 17, 2020

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I know we typically do these on a Sunday, but right now the schedule is entirely up in the air and we’ve decided to adopt an “anything goes” mentality for the foreseeable future. So, that having been said, welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we feature some of the best independently produced content from across the web focused on telling the story of gaming’s history.

When I was a kid in middle school there was nothing I looked forward to more than snow days. Snow days allowed a break from extremely stressful school time filled with dry lectures, constant bullying, and neverending homework. Let’s be honest, as an adult I can confirm it’s not like I was getting a useful education there anyway. Free from school’s time constraints, I could use the snow day to learn more about things that were actually going to be important to my current career, computers and gaming. On one of those snow days off, I found myself hanging out with my friend and their neighbor, playing a brand-new PlayStation game on their big screen TV, Final Fantasy VII.

I remember thinking Final Fantasy VII looked incredible, but I was a PC-only gamer at the time, and I didn’t have a PlayStation of my own. Because of that, I never started following the Final Fantasy games, but in the years since, I consider that a great regret of mine. Now, Final Fantasy games have seen an incredible resurgence in the past few years, with re-releases of the original games coming to modern systems like the PS4.

We are less than a month away from the release of what is likely the most fan-requested game in history, Final Fantasy VII Remake, a recreation of the original Final Fantasy VII designed to take advantage of the power of today’s consoles with Full HD graphics. But why is that game so beloved by gamers and what is the story of the original Final Fantasy VII?

Final Fantasy Union has been a channel I have been following for some time now. I admit my knowledge of the early history of JRPGs, particularly Final Fantasy games, are limited. Their channel produced incredible history documentaries on many of the classic Final Fantasy games, and even offers insight into developer Square’s history and business decisions. That’s why I’ve been so grateful to have this resource to learn more about this franchise that has been so beloved over the decades. Sit back and relax as they tell that story.

I want to thank Final Fantasy Union for letting me feature them on this website. Now that I can play the original games on today’s consoles, I’ve looked to this channel’s wealth of resources many times for essential information about FF’s history and I recommend everyone check them out.

Final Fantasy VII is out now for PC, PS1, PS3, PS4, iOS, Nintendo Switch, and PSP. Final Fantasy VII Remake is coming April 10th, 2020 to the PS4.

Gaming History You Should Know: Who Created Video Games? February 7, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Histories, Uncategorized.
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I think there are a lot of people out there that want to know more about the history of gaming, but don’t know where to begin. I do not believe I would be any good to anyone without a full history of the industry I’ve been covering on this site for over the past year, nor do I think anyone should dare put a key to the keyboard that isn’t fully versed on what they’re writing about. As someone who has been following the history of gaming for the past ten years (and sharing some of that information with all of you) I would like to share with you a few of my favorite sources for gaming history.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation out there (even from normally genuine sources). We live in a world where I saw a documentary on The History Channel call the original Playstation the first (compact) disc game console, and that’s just completely incorrect. Compact discs have been used in game consoles since the days of the CD-i, 3DO, and Sega CD, all of which came out around 1991 (some of those first came out in Japan) whereas the original Playstation launched in December, 1994 in Japan.

So where can one find good information about gaming history, and where did gaming start? Well, I don’t want to give a whole lecture about the history of games in general (that might be for another day) but I would like to float out some great sources I’ve found over the course of my life which still hold up.

There has been tons of disagreement over who is the first creator of video games. The first video games were created by the late Ralph Baer, a television engineer who’s family fled to America from Germany in the 1940s. He was the creator of the “Brown Box” a prototype game console which through its controllers manipulated a television’s blanking signal to produce a two-player game of tennis. Here’s a look at some old footage of how his prototype worked. Props to the videogamesfoundation for hosting this video.

A replica of his original Brown Box is currently on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. I was fortunate enough to see this display in person and take these pictures.

Nolan Bushnell, the father of Atari and Chuck E Cheese, witnessed Baer’s early demonstrations of the Brown Box. We know this because his name was written on the sign-in sheet. The prototype functioned very similar to the game PONG, which was a game that would go on to turn Bushnell’s Atari into an overnight sensation.

Once the legal matters were settled over who owned video games (Baer’s patents held up in court), the spark to create video games ignited into a multi-billion dollar industry with profits that eclipse all other forms of entertainment.

If you’d like to watch a full documentary about the life of Mr Baer, I recommend seeking out the defunct channel G4’s Icons documentary about him.

May he Rest In Peace.

Gaming History You Should Know – Pokemon Center NYC January 12, 2020

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It’s Sunday! Welcome back to the first Gaming History You Should Know of 2020, where we highlight some of the best original gaming documentaries from across the web! Today, we’re going to take you back nearly twenty years (which sadly doesn’t seem as long ago as it should for someone like me) to take a look at something that sadly we will never have the chance to experience ever again.

Pokémon Centers have always been a staple of the Pokémon games. They’re a haven in nearly every town where players can take their characters to heal their Pokémon, swap out their Pokémon party or activate their link cables (or wireless adapters later on) to communicate with other trainers. In essence, they’re the coolest place for a Pokémon Trainer to hang out and I’m sure that many kids (and some adults) wished places like that existed in the real world. Well, did you know that Pokémon Centers do actually exist in the real world?

That’s right, there are actually Pokémon Centers all across Japan, they just function differently than they do in the games. They are decorated from top to bottom in awesome Pokémon decorations including original statues and art. In them, customers can buy tons of exclusive Pokémon merchandise ranging from plushes, figurines, snack food, clothing and a lot more. Players could also (depending on the location) interact with original Pokémon games you couldn’t find in stores OR eat incredible Pokémon-themed food at the in-store cafe. If I ever earned enough money to afford a vacation in Japan, you can be darn sure I would try to visit as many of these places as I could!

But these Pokémon Centers, while completely awesome, only exist in Japan. I’ve heard there are a few vending machines in the Seattle area that sell a limited selection of their merchandise, and a website also exists online which ships a limited selection of their wares to the US, but that’s it. No actual physical Pokémon Centers exist in the United States. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

What if I told you that a Pokémon Center used to exist in the US? One did. Located near the heart of Rockefeller Center in New York City, Pokémon Center NY was a Mecca for all Pokémon Trainers on this side of the planet. Here’s the actual television commercial for the store which contains some rare footage of its interior.

Doesn’t that look incredible? Sadly, I never was lucky enough to visit this place while it operated. It lasted only from 2001-2005. Video and photographs of it are rare and hard to come by due to the fact the store had a no cameras policy (for SOME reason that escapes all logic). However, we’re not here to talk about what the store looked like, we’re going to be featuring the hard work of an entire group who made it their mission to preserve the history of this magical place.

YouTube Channel Hard4Games, which specializes in finding and preserving extremely rare game content hit the gold mine with this video. After what must’ve been a MASSIVE undertaking by a group of some of the best preservationists and Pokémon Enthusiasts in the world, they succeeded in finding and resurrecting a major original component of Pokémon Center NY, the store’s Pokémon distribution machine. Take it away, Hard4Games.

The location previously used as Pokémon Center NY now serves as Nintendo NY (formerly Nintendo World NYC), which sells exclusive Nintendo and Pokémon merchandise you can’t find anywhere else (however Japan’s Pokémon Centers certainly have a bigger selection). I have actually been to Nintendo NYC (twice) and can’t recommend visiting it enough. While they no longer are a Pokémon Center, they do have a history of Nintendo museum on the second floor with some rare and classic items on display from the company’s history.

Special thanks to Hard4Games and the team of preservationists including Retro Ali for making this video and letting me feature them on this site! Without their work I would have never been as informed about this incredible store as I am now. If you’d like to know more about Pokémon Center NY, check out this preservation website: pokemoncenternewyork.com

Gaming History You Should Know – History of Super Mario Bros 3 December 22, 2019

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Its Sunday and that means it’s once again time to post another Gaming History You Should Know. In this series, we highlight some of the best independently produced content from across the web focused on the history of gaming. Today, we’re going to be highlighting a brand-new video produced by someone we’ve talked about before, Norman Caruso, better known to the world as The Gaming Historian.

In the late 80s, Nintendo was utterly dominating the video game market and would go on to legendary status in popular culture. In fact, many il-informed adults still believe Nintendo is the only company to ever make video games due to their complete dominance at that time. The NES console, (with its legendary exclusive games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Tetris, Duck Hunt, and Metroid) was selling huge numbers with no end in sight. There was just one problem.

Super Mario Bros 2 released in Japan and due to extreme difficulty and its identical graphics to the previous title, never was released in the United States. However, Super Mario was just as recognizable to young people of the time as Mickey Mouse and it was nearly certain Nintendo could make another hit for their console if they released a new Mario game in the US. Could they do it? Watch the video below and find out!

Special thanks to Norman, The Gaming Historian for doing this video about a game I cared about so much. Most people cite Super Mario World as the best Mario game ever made. For me, Super Mario Bros 3 is not only the greatest game on the NES, it is the greatest Mario game.

Super Mario Bros 3 can be played on the NES, Wii, Wii U, 3DS and Nintendo Switch.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Downfall of Star Wars Galaxies December 15, 2019

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Welcome back to another dose of Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content about the history of the gaming industry. Today, we’re going to be featuring the work of the YouTube Channel saintmillion and a video they produced about something that at one time meant a lot to me, what they believe to be the beginning of the downfall of the MMO Star Wars Galaxies.

Star Wars Galaxies was one of the first major Triple-A MMOs. It’s development was so closely followed the mainstream media covered it, and that’s something they NEVER do. At a time when MMOs like Everquest and Ultima Online were making huge money, Sony Online Entertainment (responsible for the previously mentioned Everquest) and Lucasarts announced they were going to release THE MMO gamers all over the world wanted, Star Wars Galaxies.

On paper, Star Wars Galaxies was everything every gamer could have dreamed of. A chance for gamers to create their own original playable character in the Star Wars universe, pick from a series of trades ranging from smuggler to entertainer, and explore all the familiar planets seen in the Star Wars movies! To avoid issues with the ongoing prequel trilogy, the game was set after the events of the very first Star Wars movie, now referred to as Episode IV.

Star Wars: Galaxies had a monumentally successful launch and had some fiercely loyal ongoing customers, but some vocal players found issue with the limitations SOE put on them for the sake of game balance. A different MMO was released in 2004, World of Warcraft, which became a phenomenon overnight and remains the number one MMO of all time to this day. Over time, everything from space travel, to new planets were added as expansions but it didn’t improve the player base count. Eventually, entire gameplay revamps were brought into to the game…which only served to alienate the previously loyal fans. When BioWare planned a different MMO in the Star Wars universe, set during the events of the Knights of The Old Republic timeline, the decision was made to discontinue Galaxies, effectively ending the game.

Why did it fail? Everyone had their own theories. By the time it was shut down the MMO bubble, inflated by copycats trying to compete against the hugely successful World of Warcraft, had started to deflate. However, saintmillion has their own theory and after having watched their video on the subject myself, I am inclined to agree with them. Check it out!

At this day, Star Wars Galaxies and it’s expansions are no longer playable. If you want to get a good picture about how high the anticipation for Galaxies was back before it was released, I recommend seeking out the documentary Avatars Offline directed by Daniel Liatowitsch. I was lucky enough to watch that documentary at a film festival held at the University of California, Irvine back in 2003. This documentary sadly may be a piece of lost media, as even though it received a DVD release, it is now out of print and a Google search failed to turn up any digital distribution for it.